When the cameras go

I am getting used to hearing the words ‘you must have been busy for the past three weeks’. My answer usually is to just smile or to add ‘just a little bit’. I know people are just making polite conversation and I shouldn’t get frustrated by it. 

There is a lot written about managing a crisis and what communicators should be doing. It is right that organisations and businesses consider how they would respond to a crisis and that they learn from the experiences of others. But what about the aftermath and the recovery; we say very little about that.

Dealing with an incident is challenging, exhausting and relentless but at some point things reduce and some normality resumes. That for me is when the real challenge for communicators kicks in. Teams are tired and in need of rest. You are still dealing with the incident and the aftermath, at the same time people want normal business to be carried out. This is the time when any additional support will have disappeared and the workload has remained high.

The information sharing and communication activity undertaken in the aftermath of a crisis is as important as the initial phase. If it misjudges the mood or fails to cover the key issues then confidence can be lost. The pressure has not reduced, if anything it has increased. When many in the organisation will be getting back to normal communications is one area that will have to wait for normality.

Our planning and exercises don’t take the long term issues into account. They stop short when they should go further. We need to consider more than just the initial response and be prepared that the long term could be months or even years. Maybe it is time to rethink how we prepare for a crisis and remember it can last a long time. The pressure on communicators will continue and while this is tough it also means there are lots of opportunities to take if you can recognise they exist.

The recovery may not seem as exciting but it is arguably the most critical time. As communicators we need to remember our work continues in earnest even when the camera crews have gone.

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This entry was posted in challenge, communication, crisis communication, emergency services, manchester, policing. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to When the cameras go

  1. Amanda – thank you so much for writing this insightful and reflective post. For those of us who write about crisis communications and try to help practitioners (new and old) to develop strategies and dynamic plans for such situations, it is rare to read such honesty in respect of the challenges of the post-crisis stage.

    This has bothered me for some time and I have made a tentative start at raising the issue of the support that communicators need during and after being involved in such intense experiences. Most recently I discussed this with Catherine Arrow who was involved with many communicators in respect of the New Zealand earthquakes a few years ago. We shared our thoughts on a post at PR Conversations and I’m committed to continuing to address this matter as I agree with you that focus on the recovery period – and indeed, the longer term impact – needs to be addressed in training, education and wider conversation.

    I think it is particularly important to consider the effect of being presented as heroic or conversely villanised when as communicators, people are most likely trying to do the best job they can in extremely difficult conditions. Where the media can be supportive or bullying, where information is available online before it can be officially released, where the grief of others is raw, when what we experience is nothing compared to those at the front line yet it can be so hard to continue day after day. Most importantly, as with any grief situation, when the weeks and months pass, if these feelings and experiences have not been managed, it can be hard to move on.

    You and your team have been part of a magnificent response in Manchester. I appreciate that the ability to be able to pull together so well is the result of much hard work well ahead of the need arising. I’m trust that there is support for you and your team moving forwards.

    If there is anything that you think people like myself – educators and writers – can do to help with improving understanding and actions for post-crisis management (and particularly the human aspects), please do get in touch and I’d be happy to offer whatever support I can.

    Take care – Heather

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